Food + Drink

Feature

It doesn’t matter if your mom’s a top chef or a TV dinner kind of gal, on Mother’s Day you want to treat her right. And what’s the fastest way to a person’s heart? Food. More specifically: brunch. Today we’re sharing our favorite (slightly modified) brunch recipes for Mother’s Day, from a simple smoothie to a slightly complicated crepe. Get the rest of your family in on the fun and make yourself proud by whipping up one of these delicious recipes.

 

Heart Shaped Egg in a Hole from Martha Stewart

Ingredients & Tools:

  • Mom’s favorite bread (sliced if it’s in a loaf)
  • Heart-shaped cookie cutter (or a good knife and a steady hand)
  • Skillet or heavy pan
  • Eggs (one for each slice of toast)
  • Butter (try Martha’s herb butter for some added pizzazz) or olive oil

Using your cookie cutter or a sharp knife, cut out a small heart shape from the center of a slice of bread. Spread each side of the bread with butter or olive oil.

Heat skillet over medium heat, adding an extra dollop of butter or olive oil depending upon the state of your pan. Place the slice of bread on the skillet and saute until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat and flip the bread slice over.

Break your egg into the heart-shaped hole. Cover, and cook until egg white turns opaque, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate along with the heart-shaped piece of cutout bread, perfect for dipping into yolk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Images via Reclaiming Provincial

 

Banana Yogurt Smoothie from my Mom

Ingredients & Tools:

  • Orange juice (fresh squeezed preferred but concentrate okay, obvs)
  • Bananas
  • Plain yogurt (although vanilla is fine – your drink will taste sweeter)
  • Bit of ice (optional)
  • Blender
Tailor the smoothie to your mom’s tastes by adding more or less bananas or yogurt. Pour ingredients into blender and go crazy!
Image via Foodyear

Croque Madame from the Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients & Tools:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 16 slices of your mom’s fave bread, crusts removed (optional)
  • Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin (optional)
  • Small saucepan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each (optional), and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Image via Savury & Sweet

Ham & Egg Crepe Squares from Martha Stewart

Ingredients & Tools:
  • 4 crepes (try Martha’s simple crepe batter)
  • 8 slices ham (black forest preferred)
  • 4 large eggs
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives or other herbs
  • Rimmed baking sheet
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make crepes (not as hard as you think). Place 4 crepes on a rimmed baking sheet. Place 2 slices ham on each crepe. Crack 1 egg into center of each; fold edges of crepe towards the center, over the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until egg white is set and yolk is still runny, about 12 minutes. Top with chives or other chopped herbs.
Second image via Zoom Yummy

Lavender Hot Chocolate from Une-deux Senses

 Ingredients & Tools:
  • For the hot chocolate:
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 3 oz. dark chocolate
    • 1 oz. milk chocolate
    • 1/4 tsp. lavender buds
  • For the whipped cream (optional):
    • 1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract or seeds from 1/4 of a vanilla bean pod
    • 1/2 tbsn. sugar

For the whipped cream, place the cold cream, vanilla and sugar into a cold mixing bowl. Beat the mixture with a whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. Keep refrigerated until ready for use.

For the hot chocolate, beat the milk and lavender over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the milk begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let the lavender steep for 5 minutes. Strain the lavender and return the milk to the saucepan. Over medium heat, add the chocolate and mix until the chocolate is melted and incorporated. Whisk the milk mixture for 10 – 20 seconds or until frothy. Pour into a large mug and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

May 8, 2013

Nomming with Mom

Food + Drink

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So I was looking back at my previous posts, and I realized that they were, well… a little ambitious. Granted, I was on winter break, sitting around at home trying to find something to fill the time. Now that I’m back at school and work, I barely have time to shower, let alone spend three hours making a butternut squash galette (although if you have the time, it’s seriously worth it). So here’s a recipe for a quick and easy weeknight meal – Israeli couscous with tuna, chard, and kalamata olives. Don’t be skeptical, I promise it’s delicious. Only takes about a half an hour to make, and you only dirty one pan! If you’ve never had Israeli couscous before, you’re in for a treat, because it’s freaking delicious. None of this whole grain nonsense, they’re like little mini noodle balls. Ya… I know. Yum.

Israeli Couscous with Tuna, Chard, and Olives
Makes 1 serving if you’re hungry, 2 if you’re eating light

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min

2/3 cup of Israeli couscous (at Trader Joe’s in purple box, or you can buy it in bulk)
2/3 cup of water
1 can of tuna in oil
1 cup of chard
1/4 cup of kalamata olives
Grated parmesan

Drizzle olive oil into a frying pan and pour in couscous. Stir to coat the couscous in oil over medium heat until couscous is browned, about 2 minutes. Add water, reduce heat slightly, and cover. The couscous will steam for about 5-7 minutes, until soft and water has disappeared.

This is what happens when you live with immature girls, and by immature girls I mean myself

While the couscous is cooking you can prepare the other ingredients. I grow my own chard, which doesn’t get very big, so I was able to just throw the little leaves right into the pan without chopping them up. If you get chard at the store, however, it will usually have big beautiful leaves. Chop them into strips, they’ll shrink a little bit once they’re steamed.

Once the couscous is cooked, add the tuna, olives, and chard, and stir gently for about 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop into a serving dish, sprinkle parmesan on top, and you’re good to go!

Food + Drink

Smoothies_Featured

Ever noticed that refrigerators and cupboards are kind of like black holes for food? Chinese food boxes, small Tupperware containers with three leftover bites of that rockin’ lasagna you made and couldn’t throw out, jars of jelly and salsa and who knows what else, halves of lemons. Refrigerators are bad, but freezers and cupboards are worse. I seriously can go two years without taking a peek at the top shelf of my cupboard. And you know the food in the freezer isn’t about to rot, so why not let it sit there a little longer?

But, in honor of spring cleaning, here’s a double-duty project for you. Cleanse your kitchen and yourself! How, you ask? Why, let me tell you. One word.

Smoothies.

Yes, that’s right, smoothies are the answer to all your spring cleaning woes. Perfectly scrumdidilyumptious snacks, they allow you to throw all those odds and ends from your fridge and freezer and cupboard into your blender and tada! No more cans of pineapple lurking in your cupboard. Never again will you stumble upon a shriveling orange in the drawers of your fridge. And, smoothies can be jam-packed full of healthy goodness, giving your body and soul their own kind of spring cleaning.

Ingredients. Blender. You know what to do.

Try out the recipes below if you are so inspired, but the point is really to use what you’ve already got. So, fling open that fridge, pull out the blender, and get to your cleaning/smoothie drinking.

 

2 bananas, cut into slices
2 T peanut butter
2 T cocoa powder
½ c. yogurt (plain, vanilla, or chocolate are delicious!)
½ c. milk or juice
dash of vanilla
dash of cinnamon
honey to taste
 

2 c. fresh spinach
1 c. blackberries
1 c. strawberries
1 banana
1 c. coconut milk
 

2 oranges, juiced
1 lemon (or lots of leftover lemon halves)
assorted fruit (mango, peach, pineapple, apples, pears, etc.)
assorted juices (tomato, apple, lemonade, etc.)
1 c. crushed ice

 

Featured Image

Food + Drink

lemon-bars---f

You know those times when it feels like life is moving at a million miles a second, and your phone is ringing and your emails are dinging, and you are looking at your to-do list thinking you couldn’t finish everything scribbled there if you had a million years? Maybe us over-worked, perfectionist, constantly stressed liberal arts college students feel this way more than some, but I’d guess most people have had a day like this. These days are not fun. They are overwhelming, exhausting, and hold an unpleasant sense of impending failure. Fold my laundry, pick up groceries, pump out a fifteen-page paper, kick butt at the gym, play Mommy for an evening to earn some extra bucks… All in one day, you say? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m not Super Woman.

But you know what I am? Super duper good at baking. And when all else fails and life is too crazy and too scattered and too hectic, I bake, and here’s why: it’s predictable. A teaspoon will always be a teaspoon. Baking soda will always make my cookies rise. It’s methodical. Measure, pour, stir, repeat. It’s magical. Anyone who has witnessed the wonder of throwing some flour, butter, and chocolate together in a bowl, and later pulling steamy, chewy, decadent cookies from the oven knows the only way to describe that transformation is magic. It’s rewarding. Spend twenty minutes pouring and mixing, and you have yourself a tasty little treat. Talk about instant gratification.

So, when all else fails, and life is just a little too much to handle, bake. You’ll be glad you did. And really, a to-do list doesn’t look so bad when you’ve got a fresh baked cinnamon roll in front of you, wafting it’s cinnamony goodness around your now stress-free home.

Adapted from A Dinner Party, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Easy to make, these little bars take something sour and turn it sweet. Kind of like what baking does to a bad day…

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch salt
12 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the filling:
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325.

Stir the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using your fingertips cut in the butter until the mixture is sandy in texture, with clumps the size of small peas. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9″ by 13″ baking pan, and about 3/4″ up the sides of the pan to keep the filling from leaking during baking.

Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling (do this as you are baking the crust), whisk eggs and sugar together until well combined. Add the zest and juice; whisk well. Sift the flour over the top and stir until well blended. Pour filling over the cooled crust. Bake until set, but slightly jiggly, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pan cool completely before cutting into bars. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Then lord your triumphant baking success over all your other failures that day!

Images: 1 / 2

Food + Drink

DrunkRecipes

On my one day off from my shit work schedule, I got drunk and wanted to make cookies.

In this world of damn good mass-produced cookies and packaged dough, of shortened attention spans, of the widespread and insane desire to be slim, and, just, shit, what a pain-in-the-ass baking is sometimes…you pretty much are only going to try some new baking recipe if you’ve got a good sturdy buzz on.  At some point in the baking process, I started writing things down because recipes are usually written for sober people and, in this case, the alcohol added some stuff.

 

RUSSIAN TEA CAKES

(while drunk on White Russians)

RECIPE

Fuck it, let’s make cookies.

Step 1: Find a recipe that you can make from things you know you have in your kitchen. Plenty of cheese-eaters get a bit of alcohol in their blood and start getting all wacky in the kitchen without knowing dick about what is theirs.  They’re always missing the vanilla extract.  Or the yeast.  Or the baking powder.  FOOLS.  These “Russian Tea Cakes” are going to be perfect ‘cuz you have your shit together.

Look at that pro set up.  I included the ingredients for the White Russians.  Oh fuck you forgot the flour in the picture.

There we go.

You also have by accident acquired all the necessary ingredients for a “White Russian” – in fact, you just polished one off and are now staring down at the cloudy residue that is the only remaining evidence of the worst fucking mixed drink you have ever had in your life.

Just…first off, here’s the recipe (roughly) for a “White Russian” from the side of that coffee liqueur bottle:

 

Ingredients (drank):

  • 1 part coffee liqueur (my roomie brought some home, randomly, after it was abandoned nearly full at the end of a party)
  • 1 part vodka (I have cheap-ass Nikoli that tastes like death unless you run it thru a Brita but ain’t nobody got time for that)
  • 2 parts light cream (I only had half and half, but I doubt the difference in milk fat was what made this drink disgusting)

Fuck, we’re still in “step 1”?  Mix that shit, put it on ice, and sip it in a bathrobe, Lebowski-style.

Step 2: Prep the ingredients for your Russian tea cakes:

 

Ingredients (cookies):

  • 1 cup of butter.  Softened.  Yeah, they never tell you that soon enough and in the end you’re staring down, massively annoyed, at rock-hard butter.  But I told you.
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Just, so, so much confectioner’s sugar

That’s supposed to make, like, shit tons of cookies.

Oh God, this drink is terrible.  It’s like sucking on a saggy, diabetic, alcoholic woman’s breast.

Step 3:  Oh, man, you go and put on your Russian fur hat (sober edit: the hat is called an ushanka) because it’s all too perfect.  You play “Rasputin” by Boney M because that’s the only Russian-y song you can remember right now.  You are probably drunk enough so you put down the alcoholic, sugary breast milk.

Step 4:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  You remember that the Tetris theme song is Russian too.

Step 5:  In a large bowl (it says medium but your coordination is not what it was before the Nikoli), “cream” the butter and vanilla together.  Shove it, fancy recipe writer.  It’s “mix” – you’re either pretentious or trying to make it sound sexy.  You look at yourself in that fur hat and decide this Russian stuff is pretty sexy. Recipe writer = forgiven.

The Tetris song is not very sexy so you switch it back to Boney.

Oh it smells amazing.  Like french vanilla cream, like the base note of a stripper perfume.

Step 6:  Combine confectioner’s sugar and flour until nice and blended.  You’re so happy you chose the larger bowl cuz –AHWHATTHE –

All the more reason for the big bowl when your roomie’s fat cat latches on to you and darts around your legs.

You give it some attention because this cat is aggressively seeking your love and it’s scary.

Step 7:  “Roll the dough into 1 inch balls” – the 1 inch measurement is the diameter right?  Whatever.  You do it and you have way fewer cookies than you thought you were going to make/what the recipe online says.

What is that?  Like 12 cookies?  That’s…a lot of butter for so few cookies.  The amount of butter in each is just…bewildering.

Step 8:  Roll cookies in confectioner’s sugar.  You lay out a layer of that sweet stuff and roll those butterballs up.

You get about halfway through and you realize that you fucked up.  You’re supposed to roll them in the sugar AFTER they’ve baked and cooled a bit.  That’s stupid because eating cookies when warm is the whole reason you make homemade cookies.  Maybe the sugar will caramelize on the outside and be amazing.  You finish the rest.

You also finish the white russian which is now room temp because it was too close to the oven when you were making the cookies.  This does not do the drink any favors.

Step 8:  The butter level is gross so you’re happy that you put the rolled cookies on an ungreased cookies sheet.  Pop those things in the oven.

Step 9:  Bake for 12 minutes or until before they burn.  They say that an experienced baker can smell when their goods are ready to be taken out.  No timer necessary.  You are not stupid enough to try that.  At about 10 min, you crack the oven open and get a face full of heat.  The cookies look like little tan baby heads.

Step 10:  SHOULD HAVE GREASED THE PAN.  Stupid recipe.  Look at this; the cookies are too dry/crumbly and, like, dome-y to get them off the pan without them breaking up.  Follow instructions and look what it does for you.  NOTHIN.

Step 11:  Cookies are yummy.  Eat many.  Get nauseous.  Vow to never make white russians again.

(Cat edit:  Step 12:  Pet cat.  Don’t stop.  Pet thru my love-bites.  My purring is communicating how much I enjoy your acquiescence to all my wants and my total dominance.  I AM CAT, MASTER OF ALL I SEE.)

Top image via Fan Pop

Food + Drink

cookies-f

I recently wrote about my great grandmother’s recipe box and the plethora of new ideas hidden inside. As I searched through them, attempting to find the perfect recipe to try first, I came across a recipe for Soft Molasses Cookies cut from a 1950′s magazine. A short blurb at the top of the recipe informed me that a letter from a man in Ohio claimed that these cookies “were left all winter in a summer camp and when found this spring were ‘amazingly’ fresh and sweet.” Stuck in a box for an entire season and still delicious? Sign me up! Also, that must mean that someone had the balls to try a three month old cookie.  Kudos.

Full disclosure: this recipe wasn’t exactly what I pictured. “Soft” actually means more “spongy” or “cakey,” which is certainly not a bad thing, just different than what I had envisioned. I actually ended up making a second batch of molasses cookies, using not my great grandmother’s recipe, but my grandmother’s instead. Let the people decide which is better, I say! A battle of the generations, played out right in my kitchen.

 

The Contenders: 

GG’s Soft Molasses Cookies vs. Grandma’s Molasses Sugar Cookies 

 

#1: GG’s Soft Molasses Cookies
makes three dozen cookies
Prep Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hour

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup hot coffee
1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. baking power
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Start by creaming the sugar and the butter until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda with the coffee. Add this mixture to the sugar and butter, along with the beaten egg, molasses, and spices. Mix well. Molasses can be tricky to get from the jar to the bowl because it’s so thick. (Tip: If your recipe calls for oil (this one does not) then you can actually mix the oil and molasses in the same measuring cup – they will separate so you can measure them accurately, and the oil makes it easy for the molasses to slide right into the bowl. Next add the vinegar.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients – flour, salt, and baking powder – and then add slowly to the wet ingredients. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. I always like to use parchment paper rather than cooking spray because I find it is easier to remove the cookies, and it makes for a quick clean up.

Because this recipe calls for a whole half a cup of coffee, the dough is particularly wet. Use two spoons to scoop small amounts of dough (about 1 Tbls.) onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving plenty of room in between because the coffee also makes them spread out. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar, because why not!

Bake for 10 minutes. Unless you have a massive oven that can fit three full cookie sheets (if you do, call me, let’s be friends), you’ll be doing a bit of rotating. Once you’ve loaded up the first cookie sheet with dough, place it on the bottom rack, and begin loading up the second. When the second is ready, it’s time to rotate – move the first sheet to the top rack and put the second sheet on the bottom rack. That way, if your oven has a hot corner or anything like that the cookies will be spared from uneven baking.

The result: a batch of moist, cakey, and very molasses-y cookies, darker in color than perhaps expected, but yummy nonetheless.

#2: Grandma’s Molasses Sugar Cookies
makes three dozen cookies
Prep Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hour

1/2  cup canola oil
1/4 cup olive oil (trust me…)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. orange zest

White sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Measure the oils and the molasses together in the same measuring cup (you can do the oil & molasses trick!) so you don’t waste any molasses. Olive oil might seem like a strange thing to add to cookies, but I once had to substitute a little olive oil when I ran out of canola, and found that it gave the cookies a lovely little crunch on the outside and made them extra chewy on the inside. Mix well with the brown sugar and the egg.

In a separate bowl, mix together the baking soda, flour, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and blend. Add orange zest. This dough is a lot thicker than GG’s recipe, which can make it easier to work with.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. This next part is the most fun because you get to cover your hands in cookie dough! Pour some white sugar into a small shallow bowl. Scoop dough and roll into 1″ balls – you can roll them with your hands. Roll in the sugar until they are completely covered and place on cookie sheet, 12 cookies per sheet. It’s helpful if one person scoops and a second person rolls.

Bake for 8-10 min. The key to these cookies is not to cook them for too long. Take them out while they are still soft and the bottoms of the cookies are not too brown, that way they will still be chewy when they cool.

The result: a batch of chewy, sugary and delicious cookies. The sugar on the outside makes a beautiful crackled pattern and their color is much lighter than GG’s cookies.

Which recipe is the winner? You decide. (But for the record I like Grandma’s better.)

January 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Cookies

Food + Drink

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It really doesn’t matter who or how or even when. It’s not good to get caught up in, “Oh, who do I invite, I don’t know if they’ll mesh well,” and “Are they still together? Will it be awkward?” Okay, forget any possible awkward moments! They are going to happen and we might as well get together and meet them head on.  Anyone ever watch a Kiera Knightley film, like, ever? Pick any of them. She’s always thrown into a mix of rich and insane individuals. Ladies with secrets inside their tall hair and adulterous men! So, I’m sure your friends and your ‘friends of friends’ can’t be that bad. Just like chex mix, the token party snack, the people you invite should be a hodge podge of intellectual, crazy smart, and neurotic personalities. Otherwise, it will be a complete bore!!

The elements of a fantastic get together are as follows:

  • People
  • A warm vibe
  • Refreshments and edibles
  • Music

How does one create a warm vibe? Make the goodies easily accessible. Check out my New Years smorgasbord! Greet as many people as you can face to face when they walk in. If this isn’t a frat party held in a basement and you’re not busy playing DJ, you should make sure people’s belongings are tucked away nicely. And sacrifice your floors for an evening. Some folks are strange about feet and prefer to keep their shoes on…beats me.

For my New Years party, I created special desserts for my lovely guests. Get creative and try something crazy, but be sure to allot enough time so you’re not throwin’ everything together last minute. Here are the two cakes I replicated and their recipes (both seen above:

A) Chocolate cake

B) Orange Cheesecake from Martha, Martha, Martha :)

My rendition…Music. Play  more than just yourfaves. Lord, if I played what I liked we’d all be holding hands sitting Indian-style on a rug humming to “Sail Away.”  Keep it upbeat and groovy. Don’t be afraid of variety. Throw in the funk, jazz, rock, the current junk (sorry, but everyone is listening to because they have no choice), AND a slew of 80s and 90s favorites. Don’t you just love Pandora!?And that’s about it!Ta-ta lovely ladies! Party Hard!Featured Photo and DIY for the amazing wall here, All Food Photos via Beginners, Party Photo here

January 16, 2013

Hurray Suare

Food + Drink

Recipes-f

The holidays are a time for family, and for a student like myself, so are the two weeks or so after the holidays when everyone else has filtered back into the real world and you’re sitting in your family’s living room wondering if you can watch season one of Downton Abbey again without it being considered an obsession. For me, these lazy days have also been filled with one of my favorite pastimes: cooking. My mother and I have begun sorting through my great grandmother’s recipe box, trying out some dishes and placing others firmly in the pile I fondly call What the Fuck? ”Yummy Balls,” for example, didn’t make the top of our list. Another head scratcher is a dessert called Noodles Charlotte. Noodle dessert, you say? Surely not! But oh yes, 1 package of egg noodles mixed with raisins, walnuts, apples, and eggs and then baked into oblivion. If you need more convincing, my great grandmother wrote “Good” in the corner, so someone must have liked it!

My great grandmother, or G.G. as I called her, almost always scribbled the date in the corner of the recipe, and some date back to the 1940′s, at the height of WWII food rationing. What a different era it was, when canned food was not only common but desired, and most recipes called for Crisco and gelatin. It certainly makes me grateful for the amount of fresh, farm-to-table food we have access to today! Another popular ingredient? Prunes. Prune cakes, prune cookies, prune bread, prune juice. SO MANY PRUNES! Who knows, maybe they’ll make a comeback – maybe this year prunes will be the new kale. And if that is the case, I will be very prepared.

Some recipes have an exotic element added in, just for fun. Want to make your ham “orientale?” Just add a teaspoon of curry powder and a can of water chestnuts! Looking to prepare an Italian delicacy? Add a can of Chef Boyardee!

But my favorite thing about this eclectic collection of family recipes is that almost every one includes the name of the woman it came from, and most are handwritten in beautiful cursive (remember that thing you learned in 3rd grade? Me neither). By the time I had reached the last recipe, Bib, Deedie, Edy, and Nancy all felt like good friends, despite the fact that many of these matriarchal ancestors of mine have long ceased making their famous Cream Cheese Coffee Cake or Clam Fritters. It felt like I was being indoctrinated into a cozy, albeit casserole-heavy club, and I look forward to spending many years incorporating these pieces of my family’s past into my present and future. Next post, I’ll be testing out one of my grandmother’s cookie recipes – no prunes please.

Images via G.G. and Vintage European Posters / NPR

January 14, 2013

A Recipe Box of Wonders

Food + Drink

ButternutSquashGaletteRecipe-f

This time of year it seems like butternut squash is everywhere – in soups and salads and even ravioli. And I am 100% okay with that. A favorite butternut squash dish of mine is this savory galette – a tart of sorts filled with roasted butternut squash, ricotta, and garlic. It is great as an appetizer, a veggie side dish, or an afternoon snack. Or breakfast, for that matter. It tastes even better than it smells and makes plenty for guests. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Galette
makes two 10″ round galettes
Prep Time: 1 hour and a half
Total Time: 2 hours and a half

Galette Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt (or 1 tsp. of sea salt)
8  oz. butter, cut into small pieces
1/3-1/2 cup of ice water

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Filling
1 medium butternut squash
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 garlic clove chopped, plus 10 cloves unpeeled
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated gruyere or fontina

Egg Wash (for crust)
1 egg, cracked and whisked with 1 Tbls. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Start by making the dough, that way it can chill while you prepare the filling. I recommend using a food processor to make the dough, but if you don’t have one, using two forks will suffice. Before you start, put the butter (already cut into chunks) and the 1/2 cup of water in the freezer to get cold. It is very important – nay, crucial! – that both are very cold before you start working, that way your dough will be extra flakey!

Place the dry ingredients in the food processor, or bowl, and mix for 1 minute. Add the cold butter and process, or use two forks to break up the butter until the mixture resembles course cornmeal. Add the cold water slowly – you may not need 1/2 a cup – while mixing until the dough holds together but is not sticky.

Divide the dough in half – remember this recipe makes two round galettes – and wrap each half in plastic wrap, flattening each slightly into a 5″ round ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, or about the time it takes to bake the butternut squash.

While the dough is chilling, you can make the filling. Start by peeling the squash. For those of you who have never peeled a butternut squash before, be warned: it’s a pain in the ass. But worth it! Use a good sharp potato peeler.  I find it’s easier if you brace the squash against your chest and then peel slowly downward away from you. No sliced fingers, please. After the squash is peeled, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. A grapefruit spoon (with a serrated edge) works best, but a regular spoon will do too.

Cut the squash into 1/4 inch slices.

In a large bowl, toss the slices with olive oil, chopped garlic, and thyme. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lay the butternut squash slices on the sheets. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake until the squash and garlic are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

Once the squash is out of the oven, it’s time to roll out one of the chilled galette doughs on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick. Place on a parchment lined round baking sheet. In a small bowl, peel the roasted garlic cloves and mash into the ricotta cheese. Spread half the cheese mixture onto the dough, leaving a 1 inch border. Lay half of the squash (as artistically as possible – people will be very impressed with your skills) over the ricotta.

Fold the dough edges over the outer layer of squash, and sprinkle half of the grated cheese (1/2 cup) on top of the squash. Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash – this is very important, it will make the crust a beautiful golden brown! – and sprinkle with salt. Do the same with the second batch of dough.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Voila! A beautiful and delicious galette, sure to wow your post-holiday guests.

*If you don’t have two and half hours to spare, you can always make the dough or bake the squash ahead of time. Then all you’ll have to do is assemble and bake!

 

Food + Drink

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The fact that Philadelphia is a culinary destination worth of comparison to New York or San Fransisco doesn’t surprise locals or many industry insiders, but for the average non-Philadelphian, the city of Brotherly Love is known more for being the birth place of cheesesteaks, not home of James Beard award-winning restaurants.

Having lived there for five years, however, I have indulged in my fair share of Philly restaurants. Now, living seven hours away, I get weekly cravings for everything from Italian hoagies from my old corner deli to escargot served al fresco at Parc. Below are some of my favorite spots to hit up when I’m back in town:

Barbuzzo

110 South 13th Street
You know the part of Slaughterhouse 5 where Billy Pilgrim said, ‘Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt’? This is how I would describe eating at Barbuzzo. From the moment you enter the doors, a lovely hostess escorts you to a table, a thoughtful bartender recommends a drink. Then, the parade of small plates, each one leading me to explain, “But I didn’t know it could be that good!” I remember first biting into the Ouvo pizza and thinking, so this is how truffle oil is supposed to taste! Then, at the next course, I discovered that I never knew gnocchi could be so fluffy. With such an array of delightful small plates, it might be hard to save room for dessert. But you must save room for dessert. I could try to explan the salted caramel budino to you, but once you’ve had one bite, all words will fail.
Must Order: The Arancini, Caramel Budino, Ricotta with Fresh Figs, Ouvou Pizza, stuffed meatballs

Zahav
237 St James Place
Michael Solomonov’s Israeli restaurant is tucked away from street view in Old City, but its reputation looms large in a city of fantastic restaurants- and for good reason. When you sit down and order the tasting menu (and you should order the tasting menu), you are treated to a parade of salads, dips, meats, and vegetables, warming spices, and surprising flavors. I have been lucky enough to dine on everything from melt-in-your-mouth baklava to buttery hummus, but the greatest rewards are for the truly adventurous, such as the sweetbread schnitzel and grilled duck heart. 
Must Order: The Tasting Menu, Grilled Haloumi, Kofte

Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
800 N. 4th Street
The combo of Jewish and Southern food seems so obvious when brunch is in the mix– a latke and a biscuit? Hell yes. The perennial Northern Liberties favorite keeps the hipsters coming (and waiting) week after week with cheap, stick-to-your-ribs from-scratch fair. Maybe the best-kept secret? The non-breakfast items are just as good, and the lines are way shorter if you avoid brunch hours.
Must Order: Two eggs your way with biscuits and a latke, carrot cake

Underdogs
132 s. 17th st.  
There are two kinds of naysayers that could criticize a hotdog restaurant. The first may say, “How good could a hot dog be?,” the other,  “Can you even improve the humble hot dog?” Both critics are wrong. At Underdogs, located beneath the hub and bub of Rittenhouse Square, diners can choose from American Classics or “Haute Dogs” taking the topping creativity one step further by using turkey sausages to evoke a Thanksgiving meal or ground lamb for their Greek dog. To make it a total diet-buster, get their fresh-cut french fries, complete with a complimentary dipping sauce (choose from 12). BYO your favorite cheap beer after 5pm.
Must Order: The Chihuahua dog, The Adonis, french fries, sriracha mayo, garlic aioli

Paesanos
1017 South 9th Street,
Philly is a sandwich town, and while there are no shortage of great places to belly up for a hoagie or cheesesteak, Paesano’s is a perennial favorite for its creative, larger-than-life hoagies stuffed with all kinds of meats, peppers, and cheeses. The store itself embodies a kind of anti-ambiance where the quality of the sandwiches speak for itself- they do not accept credit cards and stock generic sodas, stools are a shortage so you might have to stand while you eat. But there is a reason the lines stay long – one bite of a true Philly-style sandwich will explain why the locals keep coming back
Must Order: Bolognese, Paesano

Philadelphia Pretzel Factory
Everywhere
It doesn’t get much cheaper than a pretzel-  For less than a dollar, you can buy your own freshly-baked, chewy, salty piece of Philadelphia- just make sure you cover it in spicy mustard, too.
Must Have: A Philly-style pretzel with mustard

Magpie
1622 South Street
How do you create a pie restaurant with a vintage feel that isn’t phony, a whimsical atmosphere that isn’t saccharine, and a trendy menu that could stand the test of time? Magpie, the aptly-named pie restaurant newly opened on South Street west of Broad, someone manages to be all those things. I suppose it is in part genius marketing and attention to detail that keeps this new restaurant from feeling like another flash-in-the-pan trend restaurant going the way of the cupcake, but in reality, it is the high quality of the pies served and attention to detail that will make this cozy new addition to the Center City scene stick around.
Must have: the Peanut Butter Mousse pie (weekends only) with a cup of La Colombe Coffee

DiBruno Brothers
1730 Chestnut Street
Its hard to know where to start at DiBruno Brothers – you could stare at the ready-made counter for a bit, deciding between a macaroni salad and a twice-baked potato for your dinner side. Or you could let yourself be convinced to buy a sandwich from one of four deli counters, or fantasize about buying one of their giant cookies or show-stopping cakes. Or you can do what I always do- beeline for the cheese counter and sample yourself silly. Whether you are looking for the stinkiest bleau or the most palate-pleasing cheddar, the knowledgeable cheesemongers are happy to help you sample your way to  a professional-quality cheese plate for your party and even just indulge your cheesy cravings. It’s the best free food you can get in Philadelphia.
Must Have: Cheese samples galore

Images: Barbuzzo, Treat Yo’ Self, Everyday Grub, Quick Bites (All design by Beginners)

November 29, 2012

My Favorite Philly Eats

Food + Drink

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From everyone at Beginners Blog we wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a wonderful day with your family, friends, or just yourself. We hope that no one ends up in the hospital, and that everyone goes to bed far too full. See you next week!

Image of dogs found here (aren’t they adorable?)

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Food + Drink

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Now, I know I’m a bit early. But, I’m already excited because it is THAT TIME OF YEAR. That time of year when many of us gather together with family, take a long walk in the crisp November air, and spend the evening laughing over a card game, or a football game, around a toasty fire. But, in between all those joyful activities is the real star of the show. Yes, I’m talking about the mind-bogglingly, over-the-top, button-busting, mouth-watering, going-back-for-thirds meal that we like to call Thanksgiving Dinner.

Now, I’ve never been one to pick a favorite holiday, but Thanksgiving is definitely near the top of the list. I admit that I have some hesitations about the history of the holiday – would we be so quick to celebrate if it was our ancestors whose land had been usurped and whose food sources snatched away by starving Pilgrims? Probably not. However, I like to believe that Thanksgiving has become a day in which we are asked to reflect on all that we have, to count our blessings, to give thanks for the bounty that we are so privileged to enjoy, and to hopefully do something to give back. When I was growing up, my family would wake up, throw the turkey in the oven, and spend the morning serving meals at our local Veteran’s Hall. It was a grand affair complete with live music, beautifully decorated tables, and steaming pans of food. The food was free, the fare was donated by local restaurants, and the meals were served by volunteers. A line of people, mostly homeless, wound around the block, and we would welcome each person with a big smile and a hug. Those mornings at the Veteran’s Hall remain my most vivid Thanksgiving memories. I was taught that, while the long, sumptuous family dinners that followed were wonderful, Thanksgiving is about something more.  Thanksgiving is about ensuring that everyone is surrounded by love, laughter, and lots of scrumptious food, and those are definitely things that I can get behind.

And speaking of scrumptious food…If you are like me, you’ve had your Thanksgiving menu planned since mid-October. But, if you are more of a throw-it-together-at-the-last-moment type and find yourself in need of a plan, I want to share three of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I’ve experimented over the years, and these three have earned themselves a permanent spot on my menu. I’ll be back next week with a host of Thanksgiving stories, but until then, I wish you all a beautiful holiday free of any major kitchen disasters!

 

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries and Cloves

The perfect balance between tart, tangy, and sweet; the cloves add a sultry spice to the sauce. Eat it with your turkey, potatoes, brussels sprouts, or on rolls the next as leftovers!

Porcini, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing

An unbeatable stuffing – I always make a double recipe, stuffing the turkey with half and baking the other half in a dish in the oven. I usually use fresh mushrooms (cremini or oyster) instead of the dried porcini, but I have made it with the porcini and it is quite good. If you are vegetarian, feel free to leave out the sausage and bacon as the roasted chestnuts, sautéed vegetables, and herbs create a fragrant, flavorful stuffing all by themselves.

 

Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is something that I only eat at Thanksgiving, so it is quite a special treat. The addition of maple syrup and bourbon had a unique depth to this pie, while maintaining the classic sweet, nutty, gooey, buttery elements that make pecan pie so deletable. Serve with fresh whipped cream!

Image Sources: Featured Image, Cranberry Sauce Images 1 & 2, Stuffing 1 & 2, Pie 1 & 2

Food + Drink

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I made these pretzels for the first time this weekend. This was my first bread making experience, and I’m happy to say it went really well! I was too chicken to make them by myself, so I talked my mom (a soft pretzel nut like myself) into diving into the adventure with me. We had a ton of fun, and I’m eager to try making more bread (maybe I’ll make bagels next).

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (will initially use 4 1/2)
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts water (to boil)
2/3 cups baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt

 

Directions:

1. To make the pretzels: combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Add the salt, and flour, to the mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Note: We were having a hard time with the dough hooks, so after initial mixing, we finished mixing the dough with our hands. It worked fine, so if you don’t have dough hooks, don’t worry.

3. Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. This will take about 1 hour. Punch the air out of the dough and let it rise for 5-10 more minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.

5. While you are waiting for the water to boil, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 1-2 at a time (depending on what you can handle, we did 1 at a time) for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.

6. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack. Eat as soon as possible. These are delicious as soon as they are cool.

For next day eating, reheat in the oven for ten minutes at 350 degrees F

This recipe was adapted from the two peas & their pod pretzel recipe

All images by Kelly Stewart

November 19, 2012

Recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels

Food + Drink

wastedfood

I’m currently taking this super awesome class called “Food Geographies,” and it means I’ve got food on my mind quite a lot these days. We’ve been talking about food waste – why it happens, how it happens, where it happens, how many pounds of edible food we toss out. The topic is pretty grim and unsettling because, the truth is, we are wasting insanely huge amounts of food every single day. The average American wastes between 209 to 253 pounds of food every year. In a world where hunger is a very real problem for many people, the thought of throwing out so much perfectly edible food makes me deeply uncomfortable. Yet, we all do it, or support institutions that do it. I’d like to think that I don’t waste edible food, but I’m sure I do. That yogurt I threw out because the expiration date had passed…well, I think maybe it smelled funny, but could that have just been because the expired date emblazoned on the lid made me imagine things? We live amidst so much plenty that it doesn’t seem wrong to throw out questionable items, or even to leave some food on your plate if you’re full. But, why doesn’t it seem wrong? Is it because the production of food has become entirely invisible and we are alienated from our food sources? Or is it because we just have so much food that it ceases to be valuable?

My dining hall is a food waste crime scene. With so many options and choices, students pile plates high, with eyes much larger than their stomachs, and lots of half-full plates end up making their way to the dish room at the end of the night. We have a false sense that the food is “free” because we don’t pay for it daily – we pay our bulk sum for the year and this ensures us unlimited access to the dining halls. But, think about the last time you ate out at a restaurant and had leftovers. I’m willing to bet you took every last French fry and crumb of that mouth-wateringly delicious portabella mushroom burger you bought, packed it snuggly in a take-out container, and lovingly carried it home where you fantasized about eating your wonderful leftovers until it was time for lunch the next day. Why such a different behavior in a dining hall than in a restaurant? I’m putting my money on the money.

This summer, I lived alone, bought my own food, and cooked for myself. And I was very frugal. Every dollar I spent came directly from some precious hours that I had spent working. My money was precious, and food was money. By association, food became precious. And I never wasted anything. Lettuce looking a little wilted? No problem, eat it anyways. Brown, bruised apples? Mix them into yogurt so you can’t see the brown spots. I ate things that I might have tossed in the compost because I couldn’t afford not to. Now, I’m not normally a wasteful person, but as soon as value was restored to the food I was eating, my behavior changed.

And this got me thinking. Do we grow up taking food for granted because our parents do the buying and cooking? Do young people go through “food epiphanies” when they move out of the house and the true value of food becomes a stark reality? I’m curious what other people’s experiences have been, and would love to hear some of your stories! And as a side note, I’m becoming more and more intrigued by the idea of “freeganism,” so if you’ve got stories about dumpster diving or food salvage, please share!

(Photo 1 from a fun site about food waste!)

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